Is Solskjaer's honeymoon with Manchester United back on track?
While a 4-0 victory is ample reason for early-season confidence, and United certainly have cause to exult, it’s too early to start counting chickens.
As the 2019 Premier League season kicked off, without a doubt, the most eagerly anticipated match of Gameweek 1 was always going to be the showdown between Chelsea and Manchester United at Old Trafford. And for more reasons than it just being one of the more storied rivalries of the series. Both sides were being led by relatively inexperienced managers in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard, both of them were once iconic players of the clubs they now manage.
With the event being in United’s backward, it was attended by some absolute legends of the home side, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton. The last time United hosted Chelsea on the opening day of a league was back in 1958 when Charlton scored a hat-trick of goals for United to compound a 5-2 win over The Blues.
Now, over 60 years later, a feeling of déjà vu had to have come over the 81-year-old as he witnessed his beloved team score an emphatic 4-0 masterclass over Chelsea to kick off their season.
— Diana The Red (@D98Red) February 5, 2016
NOT WHAT IT SEEMS
However, in spite of the clean sheet triumph, it’s not yet time to go overboard with the celebrations, for despite what the scorecard says, it was a game of two halves. In the first, it was Chelsea who played the better game, with two real chances and maintaining a general sense of peril around the Red Devils.
Tammy Abraham, who spent last season on loan in the Championship, led the offense early on with a long shot and was subsequently supported amply by Ross Barkley and Pedro.
And even after United’s fortunate opening goal thanks to a perfect penalty by Marcus Rashford due to a rather clumsy yellow card earned by Zouma brought the home side to life, Emerson almost brought the game back to the visitors with a near-perfect lob that David de Gea had no hope of saving but the crossbar did, unfortunately. For Frank Lampard, these moments had to have been a genuine reason of hope.
A DEFENSE MASTERCLASS
Harry Maguire, the world’s most expensive defender, was introduced on the evening and by the end of the night, he validated his position handily. Erstwhile United manager Jose Mourinho remarked Maguire was ‘solid like a rock’ in his debut, and that’s high praise coming from someone who reportedly said before the match that Manchester City’s B team would stand a better chance of winning the league.
Harry Maguire’s Man Utd debut by numbers:
100% attacking aerials won
86% pass accuracy
0 fouls committed
0 goals conceded
— UnitedReds (@UnitedRedscom) August 11, 2019
Despite Marcus Rashford’s brace and the goals by Anthony Martial and ecstatic new boy Daniel James, it was Maguire who clinched the Man of the Match award for registering more clearances, interceptions and blocks than any other player on attendance. His solid defensive insurance no doubt infused the confidence into the attacking side which allowed for the three goals in the second half, sealing Chelsea’s fate.
While the exploits of Maguire, Rashford, Martial and James signal good things to come for United this season, forward Romelu Lukaku’s exit to Inter Milan without a replacement in sight could be a harbinger of uncertaintly for Solskjaer’s side when they face teams less open than Chelsea.
That won’t be in their next game though, as United’s next fixture a couple of Tuesdays from now (August 20) will see them play their first away game of the season against a Wolves side that largely struggled last season.
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